Monday, May 2, 2016

Good giggle from Doctor Strange #2

As a book person, I enjoyed this humorous moment in Doctor Strange #2, by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo.1

The laugh for readers comes as Stephen Strange and Zelma Stanton, a librarian, are investigating an otherworldly (what else?) disturbance at Strange's mansion, the Sanctum Sanctorum.

Indeed, no self-respecting sorcerer or bibliophile would ever pile their books vertically.

Of course, it's not Strange's fault. As Dr. Venkman would say, "no human being would stack books like this."

But I reckon that when you have a library filled with arcane and occult tomes, some of which have a mind of their own, these sorts of shenanigans will happen on occasion.

As an aside from the comic-book sorcery, if you're interested in how actual humans have organized and shelved their books throughout history, I highly recommend The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski.

1. I've sort of reverted to age 12 and have been reading a number of new comics lately. Other than Doctor Strange, I'm also following Black Panther (by Ta-Nehisi Coates); Ms. Marvel; Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!; and Providence (by Alan Moore). In addition, I'm working through late Silver/early Bronze volumes of The Avengers, Sub-Mariner, Man-Thing and Doctor Strange.

Trio of nifty Postcrossing arrivals

Here's a rundown of three recent arrivals to my mailbox via Postcrossing. (As an aside, I've been trying to figure out if there's a way to send a card to a Postcrossing user in Syria. The United States Postal Service suspended mail service that war-torn nation in 2013, but I learned yesterday there might be a way to send something "via Egypt." We shall see.)

Above: This card is from Helen, an artist who lives near Kyiv, Ukraine. She used a combination of calligraphy and neatly done cursive in her message and wrote: "I am a teacher of drawing in children, love art, sewing and listening music." Not a bad job on that message, given that English is her third language. The card introduced me to Ukraine's Olesko Castle, which dates to the late 13th or early 14th century. John III Sobieski, who went on to become King of Poland, was born in a quiet corner of the castle on August 17, 1629, while a thunderstorm and bloody battle with Tatars raged outside. Olesko Castle today serves as a museum.

Above: This postcard is from Svenja in Germany. She writes: "Greetings from Herne in the west of Germany! I live in an area called 'Ruhrgebiet,' named by the river Ruhr. Here are many big and small cities near together like one huge city." The postcard from Svenja actually features an American artist, Mark Ryden. The image is just a detail of the extremely vertical 2006 oil painting "General Sherman," which is part of Ryden's Tree Show. This is actually one of Ryden's least-bizarre images; surrealism, pop culture and some incredible strangeness run through his work. I have zero idea what to make of his 2006 painting "Fetal Trapping in Northern California."

Above: Last up is this postcard from Eudora in Taiwan, who writes: "I am 15 and I live with my family in the north of Taiwan. This card is a handmade one I bought at a Sunday market. Isn't it beautiful?" Indeed, it is beautiful. The artist who created this goes by the name Princess Cada and has a Facebook page and online store. When I wrote and told her that one of her pieces of artwork showed up at my house in southcentral Pennsylvania, she replied: "So happy to know my art work is travel overseas and so glad to receive your kind message. I will keep drawing and hopping [sic] to share more colors to the world."

Sharing more colors to the world is a good goal for all of us, don't you think?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

From the readers: Weeds, bats, dolls, fictional mice, pennies and more

Here is the latest collection of reader comments and greatly appreciated assistance solving the Great Mysteries of Life presented here on Papergreat.

Book cover: "Safe Bind, Safe Find" by Garry Hogg: Mom writes: "'Weeded' is the perfect word. Pull out the dead stuff that doesn't circulate, make room for new 'green' books."

Of course, "weed" is just a subjective term we use to refer to, as Wikipedia states, "a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation."

For example, the particular situation of dandelions in the front yard. But I don't sweat the dandelions too much, and I'm not going to put chemicals on my lawn or pay someone else to do that.1 Besides, the dandelions are good for the embattled bees, who need all the help they can get.

But I digress. The point is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While I agree 100 percent with the necessity of libraries "weeding" books, it seems unfortunate to slap a poor book with such a demeaning label. Why not just a modest-sized "REMOVED FROM COLLECTION" or "WITHDRAWN" stamp? Let the book retain some dignity! Either way, though, we do like the "weeds" here at Papergreat. They're some of the coolest books.

Celebrating Earth Day 2016 with 6 awe-inspiring vintage postcards: Nena Zachary Challenner, commenting on Facebook about the "Bat Flight from Cavern Entrance" postcard, writes: "I've been there and seen that! I was about 6 years old, and I reached up as [the bats] flew over. I almost gave my mother a heart attack."

Questions, answers & mysteries with Hookland's David Southwell (Part 2): Anonymous writes: "This is an excellent interview. My latest interest is the 'hauntological'/folk-horror dramas and books of the 1960s and '70s, and Hookland is one of the most marvellous things I have discovered in aeons. I concur with Ballard when he says that a sense of place is vital. I think I shall have to visit Hookland sometime."

Thanks for the note! It spurred me to look up the hauntology post on Wikipedia.

Doll fads of 1960: Anonymous writes: "This [dakkochan doll] was also used with a famous chocolate French brand during the '60s called MI-CHO-KO."

Indeed, I found some advertisements for MI-CHO-KO featuring the dakkochan. View them here and here.

"Jim and Judy," a 1939 grade-school textbook with a York connection: Anonymous writes: "This is the book I read in PS 44, Rockaway, NY, in the 1950s. All these years of seeing Dick and Jane primers, I didn't know if it still existed. What struck me as a child were the beautiful illustrations."

"Oh You Little Darling!" and a 19th century Michigan variety store: Musical Instrument Analyst Joan writes: "So upon closer look, I'm pretty sure that's not a real instrument, because of where the mouthpiece connects relative to where the sound comes out. (Think about it — how would the air ever get to the right side of the picture?)"

Modern postcard: The great stairway in Odessa, Ukraine: Robert McKay writes: "Great stairway! Right to heaven! I was in Odessa 2 years ago in a journey provided by [Tourist Club]. Great place and I strongly recommend you to visit it. There are a lot of monuments and beautiful things."

(OK, that comment might have been spam/advertising, but I liked it and decided to include it here.)

Happy 100th birthday, Beverly Cleary! Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "Great tribute to a great author. My first experience with Beverly Cleary was with Runaway Ralph in 4th grade. I checked it out from the library simply because the cover had a mouse riding a motorcycle. How could you go wrong? I fell into Ralph's world and couldn't put it down. Then I discovered I was actually reading a sequel to The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Ramona books followed and, despite it being about a girl, I could relate. I read every Ramona book to my daughter when she was little. Happy 100th birthday, Beverly. May your books live on another 100 and more."

Partially deciphering a "Buttonwood Farm" postcard from 1913: Tom also provided some great assistance in deciphering the postmark on this one. I was thinking Duncannon or Duncansville. But I like his guess better: "Dunns Station." Nice work, Tom! He also adds: "The 'booby' might be 'babby' and be a misspelling of 'baby', especially since someone wrote the 'babbies' later on."

Another comment on this post came from Linda, who learned about Papergreat through a Postcrossing exchange: "It is lovely! Thank you so much for sharing. You have a fascinating and enjoyable blog. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada."

Four pennies left in their refund envelope for decades*: Mom writes: "Great post! This one made me laugh out loud!"

And Tom adds: "I'm an unabashedly, unashamed penny picker upper. This reminds me of my first job when I worked at a local small-town bank. I worked at the original location that had been built in 1908. Occasionally, I had to go to the basement for supplies and I always extended my trip by snooping around in all the old files. Once I found a box full of the bank's business cards with a penny glued to each one. They were from some kind of 'Earn a penny, save a penny' campaign in the '70s. I took one from my birth year and still have it."

Oberammergau Passion Play (Postcard Blogathon 2013): Stuart Williams writes: "Hi. Your postcard relates to the 1950 Oberammergau Passionspeile."

Thanks! I had been unsure whether this card was from the 1950 production or 1960 production.

Norva Hotel: An in-progress mystery from York, Pennsylvania: JM writes: "I'm guessing that they were proud of innerspring mattresses as a big step up from ones using straw, feathers or horse hair as was common back then."

1. And if the neighbors don't like it, that's just too bad.

Vintage charity labels for Cal Farley's Boys Ranch in Texas

These come from a full sheet of 50 charity labels (also known as Cinderella stamps) that were used in fundraising for Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, near Amarillo, Texas. The facility, now operating as "a residential community open to at-risk children ages 5 to 18," opened in 1939.

My guess is that these seals date to the 1960s. Many different varieties supporting Cal Farley's have been printed over the decades. (They're all over eBay, if you want some.) I'm not sure if there's much of a market for collecting the most common Cinderella stamps, but there are definitely folks who collect rare ones.

These Cal Farley labels include the phrases "It's Where You're Going That Counts" and "It's Easy To Smile When Someone Cares."

Printed across the bottom of the sheet is:


Cal Farley (1895-1967) was a World War I veteran, semi-pro baseball player, professional wrestler and businessman who has been called "America's Greatest Foster Father."

In addition to founding Boys Ranch, he assisted C.C. "Bus" Dugger with the launch of Kids, Incorporated, a youth sports association, in 1945. (Dugger died a few weeks ago at age 96.)

The Cal Farley organization's ongoing outreach and involvement also includes the Genie Farley Harriman Center for Women & Children. It was formerly known as Girlstown U.S.A. According to Cal Farley website:
"In 1987, Cal Farley’s welcomed Girlstown, U.S.A. into its family of services. Founded in 1949, Girlstown offered girls a safe shelter from life’s storms. By the mid-1990s, Boys Ranch had integrated girls into campus life and, in June 2012, the Whiteface, Texas, campus became home to the Genie Farley Harriman Center for Women & Children. The CWC provides single adult mothers a safe living environment while they transition to independent living."
There is also the Boys Ranch Independent School District, which includes an elementary, middle and high school and "was established in 1941 through legislative action. It is considered a 'special purpose' independent school district of Texas, funded in part through annual contributions from Cal Farley's and in part through state and federal education funding mechanisms."

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hoover Dam and a reminder to always use ZIP codes

This Plastichrome postcard features one of the scenic outlooks at historic Hoover Dam, which is located on the border of Nevada and Arizona.

The angle of the photograph makes the outlook appear closer to the dam wall than it truly is. (Actually, I wonder if this outlook still exists, given how long ago this was and the number of changes to the surrounding area's infrastructure over the decades.)

The printed text on the back of the postcard states:
"HOOVER (BOULDER) DAM — ARIZONA — NEV. Harnessing the mighty Colorado River to dorm Lake Mead and provide power for the entire Southwest is one of the world's proudest engineering achievements. The spectacular tourist viewpoints are prominent in this picture."
This card was postmarked on May 1, 1967, in Las Vegas, Nevada.1 It was addressed to:

Mr Carl Palm
Mohton R.D. No 1

That address was probably not sufficient for 1967, given that it was four years after ZIP codes were instituted by the United States Postal Service. It might or might not be a coincidence, but the cancellation stamp used on the postcard states: ALWAYS USE ZIP CODE.

The author of the postcard seemed, at least, to be aware of his shortcomings. His note to Carl states:
"I am a little late with this card, But I made sure to send one, but I also hope that you get it because I do not know your address, and I misspelled your Mohnton.
1. Also on May 1, back in 1840, the Penny Black — the world's first adhesive postage stamp — was issued in Great Britain.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hutter had my dream bedroom

Previously on Papergreat, I have told you about my dream house (a cozy stone house with a goat on the roof) and my dream desk (it once belonged to Chauncey Depew).1

Now we shall move on to my dream bedroom.

I toyed with having you guess what movie the above frame is from. But then I reckoned that the scene (not the movie) is too obscure. So I'm just going to tell you. It's from 1922's Nosferatu. It's the bedroom in the rural inn where Hutter stays during his trip to Count Orlok's castle.

Isn't it awesome?

It's such a comfortable-looking room, with its huge, elevated bed, pushed up against the wall. There's a little window to the left, providing fresh air and a nice view. There's a place to wash up and a place to hang your clothes.

I wouldn't need anything else.

Here's a link to an image of Hutter reading at the side of the bed. Personally, I would probably just get into the bed and do my reading while fully tucked under the covers. (Especially if I was on the borderlands of vampire country.)

Speaking of books, I am aware that this comfy bedroom doesn't contain space for all of the books and bookshelves that would be in my dream house. We'll save that for another post. But, generally, I'm thinking of something along the lines of the old Public Library of Cincinnati.

Sweet dreams!

* * *
Note: The Nosferatu movie frame in this post is property of Eureka! and appears on Gerald Wurm's

1. Also, when I was a kid, maybe 10 or 11, one of my frequent daydreams involved having a secret underground shelter. A hatch in the backyard would open to reveal a ladder leading downward. At the bottom was a large, bright room filled with piles and piles of blank paper. It was safe, secure and quiet; I could do all the writing, creating and imagining that my heart desired. Each blank sheet represented a new possibility. The room represented endless possibilities.

Norva Hotel: An in-progress mystery from York, Pennsylvania

This (really) old business card, easily discarded or lost in the shuffle, presents a nice little hometown mystery that is still being worked on.

It's for the Norva Hotel, which featured outside rooms, steam heat, inner-spring mattresses1 and the slogan "Rest Assured."

The hotel was located at 17 North Beaver Street here in York, Pennsylvania.

Here's what that location looks like today...

So, 17 North Beaver Street is in a building that's adjacent to the famous National House (seen at far right in the above photo), which was constructed in 1828, has served many different hotel and business purposes over the years, and is currently home to the Holy Hound Taproom.2 Is it possible that 17 North Beaver was once part of the "National House"?

In my initial research, I have found only a few references to "Norva Hotel" in York. They all date to the late 1940s, so this was likely a short-lived enterprise. I also found reference to a Norva Hotel in Baltimore. So it's possible that the word "SYSTEM" on the business card indicates that it was a chain of some sort. "Norva" could stand for Northern Virginia, too.

Seeking more clues and feedback, I posted the business card on a Facebook page devoted to mid-century York history and memories. One Facebook commenter, Greg Halpin, shared these thoughts:
"Definitely the National House. Several of the references state it is at Market and Beaver Streets. The 'All Outside Rooms' on the business card would make sense with the balconies. Lots of folks in arrest dockets giving the Norva Hotel as their address, and several in Divorces started give it as their address as well. Also saw where it was raided and several were arrested for 'fornication.'"
So, we're off to a good start with the research and crowd-sourcing on this one. I'm hoping there will be additional updates in the coming days.

1. Because mattresses are really uncomfortable when the springs are on the outside.
2. I featured a vintage postcard of the National House in this June 2013 post.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book cover: "Swords & Sorcery" (Pyramid Books, 1963)

  • Title: Swords & Sorcery
  • Subtitle: Action, magic, enchantment — eight novelettes by masters of heroic fantasy
  • Editor: L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000)
  • Cover and interior illustrator: Virgil Finlay (1914-1971)
  • Publisher: Pyramid Books (R-950)
  • Year: 1963 (First printing, December 1963)
  • Cover price: 50 cents
  • Pages: 186
  • Format: Paperback
  • Notes: This nifty paperback was published 53 years ago, the month after the assassination of JFK. ... Annoyingly (to me, anyway), the front cover states the title as Swords & Sorcery, with an ampersand, while the spine, back cover, title page and copyright page state it as Swords and Sorcery. ... The eight tales were penned by Poul Anderson, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Lord Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, C.L. Moore and Fritz Leiber, which is a great lineup. Four tales feature swordsmen — Conan, Fafhrd, Prince Raynor and Jirel of Joiry. And the other four tales feature sorcerers — Ghiar, Alaric, Knygathin Zhaum and Hlo-Hlo (an evil spider with a silly name, created by Dunsany). ... L. Sprague de Camp makes it abundantly clear in his introduction that these tales serve one primary purpose:
    "The purpose of these stories is neither to teach the problems of the steel industry, nor to expose the defects in our foreign-aid program, nor yet to air the problems of the housewife. It is to entertain. ... They furnish the purest fun to be found in fiction today."
    (De Camp like that last phrase. He used it at least once more, in the introduction to 1968's Conan of the Isles.) ... According to Fletcher Vredenburgh, writing on Black Gate, this 1963 volume was the first anthology that consisted purely of sword and sorcery tales. In his excellent post, Vredenburgh adds:
    "Swords & Sorcery is an excellent primer on the formative stage of heroic fiction, containing a sample by every major author of the field’s youth, from Lord Dunsany to Fritz Leiber. It’s not a perfect collection, but if you want to see where the genre comes from this is about as good an introduction as I know."
    The good news is that this book can be purchased very inexpensively, if you're interested. As of this writing, there are a couple one-penny copies on Amazon, waiting to be snatched up.